Whenever I am asked who makes the best movies Marvel or DC? I have always replied that Marvel has the live action down while DC seems to have the animation locked in solid. This has been my opinion for several years and I believe that this has been the norm for awhile. But, I believe that I have been taking that opinion for granted, assuming that anything animated released by DC was just great. It appears recently that this is not always the case. I have seen some crummy ones as of late dropped down. But with each new release, comes a new opportunity to wow me and make my opinion stick true. When I saw of the intent to release an animated Justice League movie based on writer Geoff Johns’ work on Aquaman, well I was actually pretty excited. There has been no doubt of Johns’ excellent work regarding Arthur Curry and his reigniting a title that had been a punch line for a long time before its New 52 renewal. The work was admirable and the stories were good. His Throne of Atlantis arc was solid. Making a movie on it seemed a perfect idea to me.
That is, until I watched it. For as good as the comic arc was, the animated movie version felt choppy, rushed, and was real limited on explanation of certain things. It never seems to find itself and remains that way for three fourths of the entire movie. Only toward the ending do things seem to fall into element and become entertaining. It just takes way too long to get there however.
I would summarize the first part of the story as the “establishment phase”. Director Ethan Spaulding working off of Heath Corson’s script takes an extended part of time establishing the many characters and their personalities which drag things down considerably. We see Arthur Curry himself as being a mean drunk with some pretty heavy unresolved grief regarding the death of his father. We see Cyborg really struggling with wanting to be fully human instead of the mechanized machine that he mostly is. We see Superman and Wonder Woman hanging out in Greece in their super forms, then hanging out at a Greek restaurant as their alter egos showing some weird duality of their nature. We see Green Lantern Hal Jordan, being a player and having some issues with Batman who can best be described as a real moody asshole during this whole movie. But it doesn’t end there. We see the workings of Atlantis and their characters getting established too. There’s Prince Orm (Ocean Master) having some serious anger issues with the surface dwellers (though he hangs with surface dweller Blank Manta for whatever reason) as well as some “mommy issues” as the Queen Atlanna will not allow him to go send Atlantis to war even though there is some provocation (that may be orchestrated). Queen Atlanna and Mera are stern, fierce, and wholly dertermined to maintain Atlantis as a place of peace, the establishment parts are way too busy and not very entertaining. Eventually though, things start to work their way out and we get a murdered queen opening the door for war, Arthur discovering his destiny and the Justice League working to try to nip the newly empowered Ocean Master from waging his destruction on the land populace.
The final act involves the big battle and brings things full circle allowing the action to be played out with solid choreography and excitement. Now this part, I enjoyed. But it was just a little bit too little done too late. Unfortunately, the damage had been done early and even with a spectacular battle, things never quite popped as they could have.
But I wouldn’t put all of the blame leveled on just the story alone. I think some of the voices involved were lacking as well. There was some star power here with the likes of Jerry O’Connell, Rosario Dawson, Shemar Moore, and Sean Astin working some of the Justice League “heavies”. But much of their work felt kind of bland. Moore as Cyborg did fairly admirable, but with O’Donnell, Dawson, and Astin, really anybody could have played the rolls. With the others, Matt Lanter does ok with Arthur and some of the others get by with no real dazzle to them. The only real impressive voice in the entire movie belonged to Sam Witwer as Ocean Master. He gave a performance worthy of great respect and made Ocean Master the one truly compelling character in this whole thing.
Regarding the others, I just couldn’t get into Jason O’Mara’s portrayal as Batman or Harry Lennix as Black Manta. Their voices just didn’t feel like the animation and felt kind of detached, like much of this movie.
Now not everything was completely terrible. As I said, Ocean Master rocked in portrayal and action. The ending battle was good and keeps you there and Arthur’s ascension to the Atlantian throne and subsequent invite to join the Justice League was kind of touching too.
But for every good, there was the bad that comes out and rears its ugly head. Why in the hell is Black Manta even in this? He doesn’t really perpetuate the story at all and there is still no logical explanation as to why he and Ocean Master are such pals here. Do we need to have a Steel cameo? Why wouldn’t Ocean Master drop some serious tidal waves on Metropolis before assaulting the city? The list goes on and on.
As for the entire film, it can be watched to pass the time and it will provide some minor entertainment. But I don’t think that this is the one that helps me continue my thoughts that DC rocks on their animated offerings. If anything, I found myself quite disappointed with the overall project. Here is hoping that a trend is not starting here.
Director: Ethan Spaulding Writer: Heath Corson (based off of Geoff Johns’ Throne of Atlantis arc) Starring: Matt Lanter, Sam Witwer, Jason O Mara, Shemar Moore, Jerry O’Connell, Christopher Gorham, Rosario Dawson, Nathan Fillion, Sean Astin, Harry Lenix et. al. Distributor: Warner Home Video Rating: PG13 (For Sci-Fi Violence and Action Violence Throughout) Release Date: 1/27/15 Format: DVD/Blu Ray/Digital
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